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Pancham: The Urban Timbre (Part 3)

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About Satyabrata

Satyabrata Ghosh is primarily a cineaste, who loves to pen his thoughts on movies, actors and directors who matter to him. Since his adolescence to his youth and further, with a mind to make films and write about films, one thing that keeps him grounded is listening to the loop of Hindi songs and Bengali as well. Incidentally, quite a large number of songs in this loop are composed by Rahul Dev Burman. The euphoria of listening to these songs – poignant and grandiose, with their imagery-rich lyrics by stalwart song-writers Gulzar, Anand Bakshi et all, stimulate him to probe more into his social and cultural milieu that borne such creative restlessness. This is the very first piece of his daring out of undying love for a man he feels very close to, albeit, with no personal encounter.

Pancham: The Urban Timbre
Part 3

Dil ka Bhanwar kare pukar

The rich variety of song tracks showcased in the film surprised many. Rahul became a sort of ‘Chote Nawab’. Senior Burmans’ ‘Tublu’ became to all ‘Pancham’ (a name he earned as a baby from his father, alternatively by Ashok Kumar, for crying, rather screaming incessantly, which matched ‘Pa’, the fifth note or the G scale, in music notation). 

As a bona fide member of his Baba’s music team, Pancham had been assisting him in composing song tunes for films like Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Bandini (1963) and Guide (1965), after Mehmood’s movie was released in 1961. 

His restlessness evidently was not abated when he met Sampuran Singh Kalra, a young poet who was known as Gulzar to all. Their interactions were unique. An eloquent Punjabi immersed in writing Urdu poetry and averse to filmmaking till then (Bimal Roy aligned him later) on one end. On the other side, there was Pancham, who was on a journey to infuse his music with aural imageries. 

Mujhe chalte jaana hain      

The 1960s marked a cultural shift as the young Indians started questioning the existing order. It was also a time when monochrome was giving way to colours. Hindi films were tending in favour of the Yahoo hero, Shammi Kapoor. He brought a wild flamboyance distinctively different from the charm that Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand exude in black-and-white movies. 

As a collective experience, watching films was undergoing a transition – from celebrating idealism as an eventuality to immediate gratification. Bombay’s film industry cheered as the number of viewers increased sizably with Shammi Kapoor projecting an effervescent persona enhanced with jazzy tunes of Shankar-Jaikishan and O P Nayyar. 

Somewhere early then, Laxmikant Kudalkar, an aspiring Marathi actor and mandolin player, approached Pancham with a proposal. He sought a joint partnership in music composition. Pancham liked the idea but did not agree to work as a duo. Laxmikant teamed up with Pyarelal Sharma, a violinist, and they convinced Abdus Samad alias Babubhai Mistry to compose songs for his new mythological film, Parasmani (1963), which touched the right chord. 

For Pancham, the success of this duo pinched to strive on. Sachin Bhowmik, the scriptwriter, urged him to develop some scratch tunes and meet Shammi Kapoor. Some maintained that the senior Burman asked Majrooh Sultanpuri, the lyricist to introduce Rahul to Nasir Hussain, the producer and writer of Vijay Anand’s Teesri Manzil (1966). Either way, it was the juncture Pancham was eager to reach.    

Pancham felt, he was ready to match up with Kapoor’s uninhibited presence (unlike that of his conscientious brother Raj Kapoor). In the meeting, Pancham opened up humming a tune. In response, Shammi Kapoor sang the Nepali song Pancham had referenced. It was a gentle snub from the actor, who was reluctant to move away from the comfort zone established by the, with Shankar-Jaikishen duo. 

Pancham did not give up. He took a break and returned. This time he hummed a tune which hooked Shammi Kapoor: 

In the decade that followed, Shammi Kapoor chose Rahul to compose the music for his directorial ventures – Monoranjan (1974) and Bundal Baz (1976).  In Monoranjan, Rahul introduced rhythm programming by devising a customized circuit, a technique which would change the method of music arrangement of Hindi (and all) songs in the Indian music industry in years to come:

Aao Twist karein

Back in the 1960s, Mehmood Ali roped in Rahul again for Bhoot Bangla (1965). This time, Rahul composed a song to shake up the twist dance, the ‘in thing’ then. Manna De admitted that he only imitated Pancham’s singing ‘to the tee’ in his rendering: 

However, Bhoot Bangla cherishes the first on-screen appearance of Pancham. The comic scene showcases the natural camaraderie between the actors and their perfectly timed gestures.

Tera mujhse hain pehele ka naata koi 

Guru Dutt, an auteur in the commerce of Hindi film, had shown keen interest in how Pancham was evolving. Though Raaz was shelved, he signed Pancham as the Music Director of Baharein Phir Bhi Aayenge, his new venture. But while the film was in the pre-production stage, Guru Dutt committed suicide (October 10, 1964). 

Again, it could be left to imagine how ‘a master of song picturization’ could scale up the creative space for a young soul eager to leave his own stamp in his music! It never happened as Pancham was replaced again. 

Guru Dutt’s brother Atmaram set the production of the film rolling with Dharmendra in the lead role. O P Nayyar replaced Pancham. 

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